Banned American snowboarding star Danny Kass is just another harmless “snow freak” for Queenstowner Taka Okada.
Okada, 50, had a run-in with the Winter Olympian in a Cardrona carpark just before Kass controversially drove his van up a crowded main trail.
Kass was putting chains on his “psychedelic, curious van” in preparation when Okada parked his Landcruiser in front just after 9am on Monday last week.
The snowboard champ – who owns the clothing label Grenade – mistakenly reversed into his back bumper leaving minor scratches, says Okada, who exploded initially, swearing abuse.
“Ten seconds before, I was standing there. I would have been just like a sandwich,” Okada tells Mountain Scene.
However, an apologetic Kass impressed by saying “sumimasane” – Japanese for sorry – and offering his phone number for Okada to call with any problems.
Kass also gave the Queenstowner his flash new Oakley ski goggles. “I thought he was not such a bad guy,” Okada says.
He had no idea Kass drove up Cardrona’s main MacDougall ski route soon after.
“I saw him drive off. I didn’t know where he was going.”
Only later when reading Mountain Scene – which broke the story – did Okada realise Kass’s star status.
“I never thought he was a top athlete, just a crazy snow freak.”
Kass, banned from Cardrona for the stunt, was charged with endangering the public. He pleaded guilty in Christchurch District Court on Tuesday to a lesser charge of careless driving and copped a $400 fine.
Wanaka police told Mountain Scene last week that Kass mistakenly thought he had permission to drive to a halfpipe for a promo shoot.
The van got stuck and could have rolled, putting skifield users at risk, police alleged.
Kass, understood to have left the country yesterday, couldn’t be reached – his phone message says the mailbox for “President Danny Kass” is full.